Eric Bompard wants to clothe Europe in the softness of cashmere

Eric Bompard has become a major, trusted brand in France over the last 30 years. Xavier Marie, the founder of Maisons du Monde and Eric Bompard’s new Chairman, aims to make France’s favourite cashmere brand a European leader. For him, the company’s positioning is ideal and its potential for growth and development is significant.

What made you want to embark on this new journey with Bompard?

Xavier Marie: As everyone knows, Eric Bompard is an established, outstanding French brand, and French people adore it. The company is positioned as a specialist in cashmere, with true expertise in that particular textile, and I think this is a big advantage in the current surfeit of creativity and products on offer.

In return, we have loyal customers who are very attached to the brand. We must take good care of them in any change or transformation process. Eric Bompard’s very transgenerational nature is a strength that should help us attract a wide range of customers.

What major development stages are in store for the brand?

X.M.: Eric Bompard’s quality is what differentiates us from low-price and low-quality products, of which there are many. But our existing product line must be largely reworked. My number one project is to work on the collection and the structure of the future product line. Our objective is to move from a 70% classic/30% ephemeral model to a more balanced mix between the two. Future collections will be more desirable, and we want to make room for new textiles, so long as they are also luxurious and natural, soft and comfortable. They will be systematically “harvested” (worsted in the case of cashmere), sometimes from exotic animals, but always from living and healthy animals.

To turn this ambition into reality we have recruited an artistic director with experience in luxury goods and fashion, and a fervent team will work with her. Economically, we are aiming to significantly increase our like-for-like, which is the cornerstone of our effort to inject new energy and expand the deployment of the Eric Bompard brand.

Our second project is to step up the expansion of the brand’s network of company-owned stores in France, where we can still open a significant number of key points of sale. As soon as our work on the product line is well underway we will expand into the rest of Europe.

The third project is to modernise our e-commerce site, in particular by changing platforms to meet the digital challenges currently facing retailing, both in France and abroad. At the same time, we are working on communication, which must be strong and adaptable over the long term, and through which the brand will be able to shine in the years to come. Lastly, we are likely to launch a wholesale business in 2020 so as to accelerate international development. For the moment, Bompard products are sold only in company-owned stores. And these three projects are not in any order of priority, because everything is starting at once.

What did you learn from your Maisons du Monde success story that you would like to apply to Eric Bompard?

X.M.: I learned essentially that the product is the most important thing, that everything begins and ends with the product. At Maisons du Monde, I had the good fortune to work with a brand whose catalogue is constantly moving. When we did something good, we had immediate results. With Eric Bompard results will not come that quickly or that simply.

In fashion and luxury goods, I’m also faced with the challenges of communication and storytelling. These are both key, and we must be excellent on both of them. We are doing everything we can to get there. This is the challenge that captures my imagination.

As an entrepreneur and founder, what kinds of investment funds do you like to work with?

X.M.: It’s true that I know quite a few investment funds. Even putting aside the regional funds that supported me as minority shareholders at the outset, I have arranged no less than five LBO funds, which makes me practically an expert in them.

I like funds that let me work on operations, without the intrusions that are often off-topic, regardless of what they might think. Everyone has his area of expertise. I want them to take charge of what I know least well and especially what would take precious time away from my work as an executive and a developer: acquisitions, financing structures, legal affairs and administration. In short, finance. I also appreciate funds’ networks and the ability they have to access information.

Apax Partners ticks all the boxes. I have known Apax for a very long time, and the team that helps me is wonderful. They place a great deal of trust in me, and I know that I can get through difficult times with them at my side. They are strong and, like me, they have a medium- or long-term view.

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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.